Online Design Sharing Platforms for Digital DIY


For hackers, makers, tinkerers and other participants of Digital DIY, an important way to find out about, use and participate in technological projects in this domain takes place through Internet platforms. There are quite a few different platforms that allow people to share hardware designs.

Our interest lies primarily in platforms that help establish a hardware design commons, while there are also platforms that encourage people to sell their designs instead of sharing them, which in principle is less valuable for DIY use (as restrictive conditions apply and the DIY is limited).

Platforms that encourage people to organise in communities and share their designs in the form of a commons vary much. As a minimum one would expect a hardware design to be available under equal conditions to all - i.e. under a free license - and in an editable format (such as is common in that particular sector). If we really talk about a hardware design commons, the platform should facilitate replication and modification. Therefore it should cover decisions that went into the design of subassemblies, how these fit into larger systems, documentation of how to build and use the resulting object, source code etc. And provide appropriate licenses for each type of work: for the designs, documentation, software.

It is clear that most platforms today don't cover all of that, but some more than others. Some are dedicated to a specific domain, like electronics, or space development. Some platforms are controlled by one company while others are governed more like a commons. These aspects may enhance or limit the users' freedoms.

In this page we seek to help users choose the platform that aligns best with ethical values and maximises user freedom. Therefore we constructed a list of the current platforms and indicate their main aspects. Read also other reviews and comparatives of design platforms, like the one by Matt Maier.

In the Free Knowledge wiki we have constructed a table mapping the platforms we would and its main characteristics. The full table can be found here. As a summary, the following platforms are listed:

Please let us know any corrections and suggestions that we could add or enhance. You can use this form to let us know. Check out the full table at the FKI wiki here.